Spare our blushes! SRE teacher training needed before 2019

Funding is available this year for second subject specialism training in maths, physics and modern foreign languages – but sex education is not an option, even though it is due to become compulsory.

The lack of options for free sex education training before the policy is implemented is a worry for Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP, who championed laws making the subject mandatory.

“This subject requires specialists – and there’s simply no excuse for not providing this free training,” Lucas told Schools Week.

In March, changes to the law made it a requirement for all primary schools in England to teach relationships education, and all secondary schools to teach relationships and sex education (RSE).

The government expects this will start “as soon as September 2019”, but Lucas says the plan needs more teacher training to work effectively.

Before 2010, the government funded accredited courses in PSHE education, which included elements of sex and relationship education training.

The coalition government cancelled this funding, causing a 90-per-cent drop in the number of teachers training in the subject. Registrations for the national programme, run by the University of Roehampton, fell from 1,937 in 2009-10, when it was free, to just 175 in 2013-14, after costs went up to £700.

Caroline Lucas

“This lack of training provision seriously calls into question the government’s commitment to effectively implementing high quality PSHE [personal, social, health and economics] in 2019,” Lucas said.

The new RSE will be made up of refreshed, age-appropriate content, which focuses on “mental wellbeing, consent, resilience, age-appropriate relationships and sex education, and keeping safe online”.

A Department for Education spokesperson said the government wants to “help all schools deliver these lessons so that young people are equipped to have healthy relationships and treat each other with respect.”

“We are reviewing the teacher subject specialism training and exploring possible options for future programmes.”
Jay Harman, an education campaigner for national charity Humanists UK, told Schools Week that time and money must be set aside for training.

“At the very least this means including free RSE training in the teacher subject specialism training course, but of course it ought to go much further,” he said.

“We will certainly be pushing the government to provide that funding as they consult on the new RSE provisions over the coming months.”